Partisan Politics

About the Author: Laura Hackbarth is a part-time second-year law student at American University- Washington College of Law. Laura graduated from West Virginia University. 

 

In recent years, the United States has seen an increase in partisanship within the country’s political system.[1] Those within the United States have likely noticed and/or experienced the partisanship between the two major political parties: the Democrats and the Republicans. An event that may have increased the public’s awareness was the partisan divide between these two parties in American politics in the 2020 elections. An analysis on the recent election from the Pew Research Center explains that, “[o]nly six states now have U.S. senators of different parties – the smallest number of split delegations since Americans started directly electing their senators more than a century ago . . . .”[2] This layout of elected officials means Americans are divided on political policies and issues facing our country, “[a]cross 30 political values – encompassing attitudes about guns, race, immigration, foreign policy and other realms – the average partisan gap is 39 percentage points.”[3] Another article on this recent election and polarization goes on to say, “[t]he elected officials who take the oath of office in January will be representing two broad coalitions of voters who are deeply distrustful of one another and who fundamentally disagree over policies, plans[,] and even the very problems that face the country today.”[4]

Another example of a way in which people may have experienced partisanship is in the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. During the most recent U.S. presidential election, the Coronavirus pandemic became a focal point for both the candidates and the electors. As noted by the Pew Research Center, in this most recent election, a divide had emerged between the two major political parties and their respective members on the importance of the Coronavirus: “because of the virus, 82% of registered voters who support Biden said in October that the outbreak would be ‘very important’ to their vote. Only 24% of registered voters who support Trump said the same.”[5]

While the divide may have seemed more prevalent in the most recent election, the partisanship divide is not new; “[i]n reality, partisan identification and behavior is deeply intertwined with the practice of American democracy and has been since the 1830s.”[6] In more recent times, the Pew Research Center states in their research that the “[n]arrow partisan divides in the Senate and the House of Representatives have become more common in recent decades . . . .”[7] The analytics on the divide of partisanship indicate that partisanship has been increasing since the 1990s.[8] Since then, the states have become more united in electing their respective officials from one of these two major parties, instead of the state having elected officials from various political parties.[9] Thus, there has been a long-term narrowing of congressional majorities, which has developed through growing partisan polarization.[10]

As the trend in partisanship demonstrates, partisanship is not new to the American political system. This trend also shows that the country will likely see bipartisanship being reintroduced into our system once again, even though the most recent election displayed a partisan divide. We may see such a change from the very officials who were elected to a divided system. One important official in creating this change may be the newly elected U.S. president, as the new administration has touched on bipartisanship. As stated by U.S. News & World Report, “[President Biden] pledged to bring back bipartisanship to a deeply divided Washington.” [11] Thus, for those who prefer a political system that is one of cooperation between parties, this indicates that there is a push toward its reintroduction.

 

[1] Drew Desilver, U.S. Senate Has Fewest Split Delegations Since Direct Elections Began, Pew Research Center (Feb. 11, 2011), https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2021/02/11/u-s-senate-has-fewest-split-delegations-since-direct-elections-began/.

[2] Id.

[3] Pew Research Center, In a Politically Polarized Era, Sharp Divides in Both Partisan Coalitions , Pew Research Center (Dec. 17, 2019), https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2019/12/17/in-a-politically-polarized-era-sharp-divides-in-both-partisan-coalitions/.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Thomas E. Mann & Norman J. Ornstei, Five Myths About Bipartisanship, Wash. Post (Jan. 17, 2020), https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/five-myths/five-myths-about-bipartisanship/2020/01/17/35853dca-3873-11ea-bb7b-265f4554af6d_story.html.

[7] Katherine Schaeffer, Slim Majorities Have Become More Common in the U.S. Senate and House, Pew Research Center (Dec. 1, 2020, 11:18 AM), https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/12/01/slim-majorities-have-become-more-common-in-the-u-s-senate-and-house/.

[8] See Desilver, supra note 1.

[9] See Desilver, supra note 1.

[10] See Schaeffer, supra note 7.

[11] Susan Milligan, Biden Opens Bipartisan Dialogue with Republicans on Coronavirus Relief , US News (Feb. 1, 2020, 7:00 PM), https://www.usnews.com/news/politics/articles/2021-02-01/biden-opens-bipartisan-dialogue-with-republicans-on-coronavirus-relief.

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